My four kids stood in front of me, bouncing up and down. “Are we moving, are we moving?!” they asked with huge grins. They overheard part of a phone conversation I was having with my husband, and they couldn’t contain their excitement about moving to a new town and starting at new schools. I admit, I was surprised. We have moved as a family several times before, and usually, the kids are … less enthusiastic about moving. I’ll even confess that sometimes they have whined and complained and cried about leaving friends behind or starting at a new school. So, what was different about this move?
There are several reasons the kids were excited about new schools, and I’ll dive into those details in a moment. But first, let’s acknowledge that kids can feel a variety of emotions about every move. No matter the circumstances, there will probably be many things that are frustrating to military kids when they move. Military parents all know the litany of complaints: losing friends, missing out on opportunities and extracurricular activities, not knowing teachers, unfamiliar school buildings, etc. But among all those negative experiences, there are usually some nuggets of positive, exciting moments. As parents of military kids, we can acknowledge the difficult challenges, while helping our kids to see the joys and benefits.
If you are preparing for a military move, here are some ways to help your kids get excited about a new school!
- New people, new friends. Maybe your military child has some amazing friends that will be difficult to leave behind. Or maybe they struggled to make any friends at the current location. Either way, the new school is full of potential friendships and new opportunities! At previous schools, when we arrived mid-year, my kids told me they had to let friends choose them, because all the other friendships were already established. When we move this time, my older kids are excited to “actually choose new friends.” They want to be intentional about finding people with the right personality and making friends who bring out the best in them.
- Check out the cool curriculum. Every state and each school has something different to offer. This is especially true if your child is moving from elementary school to middle school, or from middle to high school. Each time, they will have more classes, more teachers, and a different type of curriculum. Help your child get energized about the new setup and fun perks like having a locker or changing classes. This may be their chance to apply for an honors class or branch into a new interest.
- A fresh start. It’s hard to be a military kid — always the new kid, never part of the group that all grew up in the same town together. But a move always means a new school, with a chance to start over. If your child struggled with certain subjects, teachers or behavioral issues, then remind them that moving helps them start over in a building where they don’t have a reputation or a record yet. They get a unique chance at a blank slate, where they can take control of their choices and their student record.
- Electives are exciting. This is an easy sell. Whether your child is into sports, music, pottery, robotics, theater or trivia, find out what local schools offer that activity as an elective or after-school club. Then talk it up to your child! Let them know you admire their interests and support their talents, and that you want to help them enjoy this new elective. Being able to join a group of fellow students in their preferred area of interest can be a great icebreaker. This helps military kids settle in faster.
- Research is key. The more you research and learn about the area, the easier this process will be. Go to the local school websites and look through photos of recent events. Contact administrators to ask about class schedules, optional electives and extracurricular events. Give the kids tangible, visible ways to connect with their new school. That’s what I did before this upcoming move, and so far, it seems to be going well!
Most of the above situations can be a positive experience for your military child. But chances are, they won’t see a PCS move that way at first. It’s always simpler to see the challenges and drawbacks of something new and different before they embrace the positive opportunities. That’s why it’s up to you — the parent — to enter a PCS armed with all the relevant information and details to get your child excited about the move.